One of the medical team gave him a loofah when the mutated layer of skin began to dry out and flake away. She even offered
to show him how to use it, which he would have had to decline on fraternization grounds even if the I'd rather not be seen
in my naked blue freakishness, thanks grounds hadn't been so stable. She just grinned and handed him a jar of
some Athosian-made herbal goop, saying that he needed to moisturize. "You want those new cells to stay healthy. Think of
it as having a really bad sunburn."
A really bad, blue, chitinous sunburn, on his entire body. Right, herbal goop was all he needed.
He used it up pretty fast, because he was showering two or three times a day. Whenever he felt the slightest itch or noticed
the blue peeling away at all, he was in the shower and attacking it with the loofah. He wanted it gone, he wanted his own
skin back. What he really wanted was for it to have never happened at all, but since Rodney hadn't quite worked out the kinks
of time travel yet, he was stuck with scouring himself raw at every opportunity.
Sure, it hurt to sit down...and pick things up...and wear clothes...but it would be worth it to get rid of that layer of scaly
blue and everything it implied.
Not me, he thought, gritting his teeth against the sting as he turned the shower on yet again. That's not me.
Get it all off and wash it down the drain, and what's left, that'll be me.
Carson gave him a long and especially boring explanation about how the cells in the human eye replaced themselves very gradually,
and thus why it was taking his eyes so long to go back to normal. "The retroviral transformation was artificially accelerated,"
went the technobabble. "We're letting your DNA reassert itself more naturally. It takes longer, but it's much better for
Better for me, he thought when he put on his sunglasses, hooded sweatshirt, and gloves just to walk to the cafeteria.
Glad you guys are looking out for me like that.
The doctors wanted reports, of course, an account of the changes from the inside. He happened to overhear some of them discussing
it, when he was waiting for Carson to give him another check-up. "If only we could figure out how to just get the initial
changes," one of them said, enthusiastically pointing at something on the datascreen. "He reports extra speed, strength,
"And a corresponding euphoria," the other one pointed out. "We'd have to figure out how to turn that down."
"No," John said, peering around the corner at them and watching them jump about six feet in the air. "That's the best part."
He wondered what he'd say if they tracked down Ford again. I get it now, man, I totally understand. You're right, it
is great. It's amazing...
"But you wanted to change back," Rodney pointed out when John tried to explain it to him. "Ford, for whatever reason, is completely
addicted to the Wraith juice, but you were willing to come back."
"Yeah, because I was mutating into a giant blue freak."
Rodney blinked. "So...we have to hope that A, Ford's addiction starts changing him physically and B, he's as vain as you are?"
I'm not vain, he thought in the shower that night, gritting his teeth and ripping another layer of mutated cells
away. I just don't like to be a freak. Who does?
He just wanted to go back to being himself, and pretend it never happened. The others would be willing to pretend too, most
likely. Nobody liked to think about stuff like this, mutation and horror and possible death. Nobody liked to think about
how it could happen so easily out here, where every single thing was so literally alien and unknown.
He stared into his strange eyes in the mirror and put his sunglasses on again. Better. Soon he'd be himself again, and he
could go back to pretending with everybody else. And maybe soon after that, he'd forget how it felt to be a superman, and
it wouldn't even be pretending anymore, just living, safe and sound in his own human skin.